Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

A Tough Little Patch of History: Gone with the Wind and the Politics of Memory

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

A Tough Little Patch of History: Gone with the Wind and the Politics of Memory

Article excerpt

A Tough Little Patch of History: Gone with the Wind and the Politics of Memory. By Jennifer W. Dickey. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2014. Pp. [x], 220. $34.95, ISBN 978-1-55728-657-4.)

The Road to Tara--to borrow the name of Clayton County, Georgia's tribute to its most famous fictional place--has been paved by an incongruent mix of history and popular culture. Add in a few unrealized financial schemes and a dash of preservation controversy, and you have A Tough Little Patch of History: Gone with the Wind and the Politics of Memory, Jennifer W. Dickey's intriguing study of the ways that three historical sites in Atlanta have "alternately embraced and shunned" their connection to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind (1936) (p. 3). Mining correspondence, newspaper accounts, and interviews, Dickey's new book analyzes exhibits at the Atlanta Historical Society (and later the Atlanta History Center) on the book and movie, Clayton County's flirtation with a Gone with the Wind theme park and Tara restoration, and the Margaret Mitchell House's triumph over a wrecking ball, two fires, and a wave of heated public debate.

Dickey begins A Tough Little Patch of History with the backstory: a biographical sketch of Mitchell, the publication of Gone with the Wind, and the adaptation of the book into the 1939 film by David O. Selznick. This work contextualizes the three case studies that follow. The Atlanta Historical Society (AHS), Dickey explains, staged eight Gone with the Wind exhibitions aimed at separating historical fact from cinematic legend. Differentiating the book from the film, and both from Atlanta history, the AHS later added exhibits on the Gone with the Wind industry in an attempt to lure visitors with a glittering array of memorabilia. Clayton County, purportedly the site of Mitchell's fictional plantation, Tara, chased financial dreams that centered on theme parks and historic sites. …

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